Utility pole? Find out where to plant a tree; sales happening now in WNY

oak tree under utility wires in Amherst NY
It’s wonderful to plant oaks and other trees in your yard, but this one isn’t in a good spot. On the left, the branches tower over the utility pole, but the branches on the right had to be cut back so they wouldn’t interfere with the wires. Don’t plant under utility wires. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

You don’t want to be that person—the person whose tree branch knocked out the electricity for the whole neighborhood.

And you don’t want to plant a tree or shrub in a spot where the utility companies will do the pruning for you. The result isn’t pretty and it’s not good for the tree.

That’s why you need to make sure you choose the right tree or shrub for your landscape before you buy one from the sales in Western New York counties or the state. See more below.

First, check out some basic rules for choosing the right tree or shrub for the right spot.

Poles & wires: where to plant

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) gave me information from their head arborist for this article.

“Nothing should be planted near poles or directly under power lines,” the head arborist said.

Your seedling or sapling also needs to be planted far enough away from utility wires so, when the tree is mature, the branches don’t interfere with the wires.

The illustration below from NYSEG gives a great explanation on how to plant trees far enough away from wires—or from your house.

illustration showing where to plant trees around a house
Image from NYSEG

“It’s advisable to consult with your local Utility Arborist,” the NYSEG head arborist said. “Best thing is to call the local arborist with any questions if any extensive plantings are planned—always glad to help.”

Some of the sales listed below include width as well as the height in its description of trees, which you may find helpful. For example, white oak (Quercus alba) grows about 50-80 feet tall with a similar spread, according to the description from the Erie County sale. If you don’t find information about the canopy spread in your county’s sale, look at the descriptions from other counties. They may have information about the species you’re interested in.

Pruning limbs around wires: Don’t do it!

“A tree or limb that contacts a power line could be deadly,” according to NWSEG. “Leave cutting and pruning of trees near power lines to professionals.”

If that’s not enough to convince you, it’s against the law.

“It is illegal to clear utility lines if you are not certified to do so,” said Steven S. Sypniewski, CNLP and ISA Certified Arborist, who is the Assistant Campus Planner & Arboretum Manager at Buffalo State University. “If a branch or leader of a tree is within 10 feet of a wire, it must be pruned by an arborist who is certified in utility line service.”

Sales of trees & shrubs

Tree and shrub sales are taking place now. The deadlines differ.

New York State sale

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is hold its annual tree and shrub seedlings sale. See more here.

Sales in WNY counties

Chautauqua County

Erie County

Genesee County

Niagara County

Orleans County 

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